EWS Reservation

On November 7, the Supreme Court decided to enforce the 103rd Amendment, which grants 10 percent reservation to some communities who are poor to uplift their social status. According to recently published data on November 2, 2022, by Sanyukta Kanwal, 45 million women and 38 million men still live in poverty in India. Can this EWS exercise lift these people from abject poverty? The answer is simply ‘no’. The upper caste poor will remain poor despite this much publicised ‘Reservation’ verdict.

Therefore, what is the basis for creating a supernumerary category of the “poor”, when existing economic marginalisation is massive and does not include the generational effects of caste, but class deprivation?

Can the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) reservation, remove poverty in India? Who can claim to be poor, and who cannot?

What is the fate of those millions who live on the streets–migrants, manual scavengers, destitute, and the poor who belong to no citizen’s land? Instead of bringing into effect robust economic policies and development to counter unemployment and poverty, the EWS quota satisfies the whims of savarnas and political parties to reserve reservations according to their taste buds and preferences. Let the poor fight the poor! The reality is that too many job seekers are chasing too few jobs.

The EWS does not and cannot be said to be affirmative action for removing economic inequality and deprivation because improving poverty indexes requires attending to festering economic policies and not infesting the reservation discourse with generalised marginality.

The EWS reservation is a class-selective favouritism granted by the present government to these sections.

It is only an “Electoral Working Scheme”, and a vote bank mechanism for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to satisfy and satiate some sections of the society who are neither so rich nor can claim to be Dalits, Adivasis and OBCs to get reservations. This section constitutes the poor upper castes who, despite being poor, have the cultural and political power to re-form reservation in their favour if not remove it.

This means that now there is a paradigm shift in the understanding of reservation which Ambedkar envisaged for Dalits, the downtrodden amongst the downtrodden who are considered the untouchables or bahishkrit (outcastes) of Hindu society and who silently continue to suffer caste violence at the hands of these upper-caste sections of the society despite a significant number of Dalit representation in Parliament and state assemblies.

This shift signals the protection of jobs, education and representation on the basis of economic marginalisation and not caste.

Categorically EWS reservation is then an attempt to “Ending Weaker Section” reservation by empowering upper-castes to gain social privilege through the same channel of protection and representation called reservation for the Dalits and minorities. The Hindu Right has been campaigning for the upper caste weaker section reservation scheme for long and now they are successful. And BJP is going to reap electoral gains in the coming parliamentary polls in 2024.

The challenge of protecting the idea behind the “reservation” started by B R Ambedkar is not new today. It is inevitable that in the historical periods to come, it will be under further attack by forces against this constitutional protection extended to the Dalits and minorities. In truth the ruling BJP is systematically destroying the Constitution–this is part of their hidden agenda.

For one thing the EWS reservation threatens the very idea of this affirmative action and social justice as Constitutional protection granted by law to the victims of caste Hindu society on whose sweat and labour upper caste elites lead their lives.

The EWS quota challenges and threatens the reservation mandate for the historically oppressed by violating the basic tenets of discrimination when it extends its ambit to include the same provision for its caste discriminators.

The hard fact is that Indian parliamentary politics these days basically revolves around reservation and hate speech. In the absence of mass mobilisation against huge unemployment, retrenchment, price rise and runaway inflation ordinary wage earners in every sector of the economy find it increasingly difficult to live a dignified life. No political party is serious about hardships people are facing daily–even left parties have stopped organising masses on class lines; they too dance to the tune of caste-lords.


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Vol 55, No. 23, Dec 4 - 10, 2022